Note: This was supposed to be 5 movies, but it just hit 3am so I’m going to shorten it 1 film. Thus explaining the gap between my childhood years and teen years.
Sometime in the next couple of weeks I am going to begin putting a new blog series about films I see as essential for film goers. Before I begin posting this list I want to make a more personal post which will be far less objective and more about my journey in film and the understanding of it. Everyone has movies that impact them in ways they don’t expect. These movies can be from any genre of any quality; people can be impacted by all sorts of movies; good,bad, funny, depressing, realistic, fantasy. This is the level where objectivity is stripped away and movies take on a very personal role for viewers. This list of movies will in a way begin painting picture of how I have come to understand film and why I tend to gravitate toward movies the way I do. Some of these are from my childhood and some of these are very recent. I believe that movies can have a way of compelling people emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually and this list is just a few of the movies that have impacted me and really changed the way I view not only film, but people and the world around me.
Star Wars (1977)
Directed: George Lucas
I know; what boy who has been remotely exposed to TV or movies isn’t going to tell you Star Wars had an impact on their childhood? I’ll admit; I’m no different. Star Wars was probably the first live action movie that I ever really loved. I can’t remember a single movie that I watched before that that I watched over and over again. I still remember going to the library when I was probably 6 or 7 and my mom picked it out for me to watch. I wasn’t sure what to think about it because it was not animated. I am so glad that I had that encounter with Star Wars at that age because I absolutely fell in love with the story, the characters, the adventure, and epic scope of the original Star Wars. The movie had everything a 7 year old boy would want; action, adventure, dogfights(I didn’t know what they were called at the time), lovable characters, swordfights, lasers, and a story that can easily hold attention. I remember getting so into the movie the first time, and then when the end came I cheered when Han, Luke, and Chewie all got metals at the end of the film. I also remember the excitement I felt when I found out there was more……2 more! It was heaven. This was certainly a gateway movie that opened me up to accepting real people in movies, and it gave me a series that I would proclaim was the greatest sci-fi(or film) series ever made all the way through high school. While I may have become slightly more objective of the actual quality of the series; I can’t help help but love Star Wars. It has changed the world we live in today with everything from technology to movie making techniques; it is a masterpiece. This was and still is a series that I love to watch anytime and yes I do include the prequels(haters gonna hate right?) The film series has spawn countless book series that I have enjoyed, video games I have loved, and CGI cartoons I still can’t get enough of. Star Wars will undoubtedly be something that I will pass down to my kids as I believe that it is a series that transcends generational barriers. George Lucas may(for better or worse) be one of the most influential figures in my understanding of film. This movie was the first movie I remember being invested in mentally and emotionally, but it would not be the last, but would in fact give me an entirely new hobby that would stick with me for the rest of my life.
Directed: Zack Snyder
Based on A Graphic Novel by Alan Moore
Watchmen is a movie that was all about timing. Had I seen it sooner I would have hated it, but had I seen it later I highly doubt that it would have had the impact it did on me. When I saw this movie I was very much struggling with my perception of right/wrong, black & white thinking vs the reality of grey areas, and most of all how people work and what motivates them to do what they do. I was very vulnerable and at a point where there were no simple answers and my understanding of the world was narrow, broken, and ultimately hollow , painful, and confusing. This movie certainly touched on all of these things and really forced me to think about how I understood the world. There was a big difference between how I wanted it to be verses how it actually was. I saw this movie my senior year of high school with some friends who could not stop talking about how hard this film was going to pull off and how bad this movie was probably going to be, but they were excited for thing months out and could not stop hyping it up. I had not read the graphic novel, but by the time I went into the movie I felt as if I had been extensively filled in on the details of what this universe was about and how it worked. After walking out of this movie I was extremely unsure of what to think. The movie ends with no clear answers as to who was right and who was wrong and the real issue of the sad truth of humanity is still left on the table. I walked away with plenty of things to think about. For a couple of weeks I could not wrap my mind around why this film hit me the way it did. It was at this point that I went and read the original graphic novel by Alan Moore(also one of my first real ventures into comic books). The graphic novel had most of the same ideas, but delved much deeper and went much farther with it’s questions and ideas than the movie ever did. This movie certainly played a significant role in my perception of reality. It affected me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in a way that I truly was not expecting. It challenged my thought process, my spiritual beliefs, my view on politics, and my entire worldview. Some people may say it changed me for the worst, but looking back I was able to grow so much in all the above areas because I was forced to think about about it from a different angle. After finally seeing the movie a second time I was finally able to understand what the movie was getting at and why it portrayed super(anti)heroes in the way it did, and why the universe it was set in was far more realistic than the one of most comic books. I myself am surprised to say that it was Watchmen and not something like The Dark Knight(which certainty impacted me in its own way), Sin City, X2, or Spiderman 2 that changed my perception of people and the world I live in. It was all about timing. Despite the fact that it was Snyder that adapted the film; I give most of the credit to Alan Moore who crafted such a rich, bleak, and ultimately more realistic take on superheroes in his excellent piece of graphic novel literature
Directed: Christopher Nolan
A disclaimer I’ll make up front is that this was a very tough pick between Inception and one of Nolan’s other mindbending brain teasers, Memento. Inception is a movie that I have thought about on an intellectual level more than probably any other film I have ever seen. I very vividly remember 2 summers ago seeing the movie and being absolutely blown away. I believe that the only really footage of the movie I remember watching before I went into the film was the very first teaser that set the mind as the scene of the crime, and then it had Nolan’s name attached to it. I was sold instantly; I didn’t need to see anything else because with Nolan involved I knew it was going to be great. Even with this expectation, I was absolutely blown away by what I saw. This was a movie that I walked out of the theater talking about with some friends, and we continued to talk about the movie for more than an hour afterward. I went home thinking about the movie, I laid in bed thinking about the movie, and I woke up the next morning still thinking about the movie. What did it all mean? Was the whole thing a dream, Was part of it a dream, did Cobb reunite wiht his family? I played the movie over and over again in my mind looking for answers. I ended up loving the movie so much that I saw it two more times in theaters, and I could not get enough of it. I wanted to talk about the movie with everyone, I wanted to know what everyone’s interpretation of the film was, and I wanted to have deep philosophical discussions about many of the themes in the movie. This movie is one of the reasons that I decided that I wanted to write about film; it had such an impact on my thought process and how I analyzed movies. It was after dissecting and discussing this movie to death that I realized what the potential of film really was. After that moment I was convinced that movies were no longer mere entertainment, but an art form like no other that could inspire thoughts, ideas, morals, and meaning in life. My perception of movies were changed forever after Inception, and it was at that point that my standard for movies; even as simple entertainment was raised very high. The critic in me was more or less inspired by Inception more than any other film I’ve ever seen.
The Tree of Life (2011)
Directed: Terrance Malick
This movie is obviously very recent, and time may tell what type of an impact it will have on me the long run, but this movie moved me, very deeply moved me in a way that no other movie has. The movie is a gorgeous work of art as the film covers so many things. It discusses nature, God, science, mankind, the broken relationship between a father and a son, and the absolute beauty of the universe we live in. I do not think I could find or explain a better film that describes a man’s spiritual journey better than this movie did. This is a film that I interpret to be about a man named Jack(more than likely an avatar for Terrance Malick’s) and his faith in God and how his understanding of God and the universe he lives in has been broken and fractured by the relationship he has with his own father. We see that an older Jack is contemplating so many questions and problems as he looks back to his childhood. While Jack is the main character, the movie also gives some insight into the characters of Jack’s father and mother and their perception of the sad events that transpire in their family. The movie utilizes prayer and spirituality unlike any movie I’ve seen before. In my journey into film I have had a very difficult time reconciling my love for film with the Christian lifestyle that has been deemed acceptable. It has been very difficult to explain my faith to some of my more movie savy, critical friends and vice verses with some of my Christian friends who aren’t very movie savy people. There is a very sad and most times pointless divide between secular film goers and typical Christian film goers that I have observed. The Tree of Life was able to present a message that is not just about faith or spirituality, but also about human beings and the world we live in. I was moved by the conviction that clearly went into the making of this film. It did what all those terrible “Christian movies” completely fail to do which is to tell a story that is not a sermon; to express ones understanding of life by showing a story and not verbalizing it in a message. The film told a story about real people dealing with real problems, and it showed how God and spirituality affected this character; it didn’t beat the audience over the head with a shallow message with an agenda. This movie felt real. Aside from its take on spirituality I can honestly say that I certainly saw a bit of myself in Jack as I have recently been coming to several moments in my life where I look back at the struggles I faced and I look at my understanding of God. I see Jack’s fractured relationship with his father and can’t help but see a bit of myself in a very similar position where I am standing now mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This movie moved me to tears; more than once. This is not a film many people are going to like because of its open ended and abstract nature, but it is a movie that I love and despite what other people think I believe this film is sublime; it’s in it’s own category. Whatever you do; please do not write this film off as pretentious, weird, or “that movie with dinosaurs in it”. Maybe it won’t move you the way it moved me, but you will certainly be missing out on something very special by writing this movie off.
I’d like to thank a few of my friends Adam Foreman, Ben Friend, Shawn Curtis, Daniel McBride, (can’t believe I’m saying this) Jarrod Bowman, Brian Marlett, Austin Lucari, Beth Lucari, Dustin Sells, Mark Harris, to some extent Jacob Harris, and somehow Daniel Stull who were part of the movie discussions that got me where I’m at now. There are certainly others, but you are the people I really think of when looking back at who has challenged me in my understanding of movies and by extension; life. Your various views have definitely challenged and inspired me whether or not we agreed or disagreed. I wouldn’t be who I am today without our discussions.